Before the earthquake hit in April, we had planned to spend the month of May in Nepal. There is a wonderful new program in Pokhara called The Learning House (you can google it). We had arranged to volunteer there and stay with a Nepali family for the month.
Luckily for us, we were not in Nepal on April 25th. After the earthquake, we were in frequent contact with The Learning House. We also contacted several volunteer aid organizations to help us decide if we should go to Nepal as planned. We really did a lot of research and had a very good idea of what to expect.
Our plane to Nepal was quite large. I suspect there were at least 300 people on it. Of them, there were only a handful of women. Including me and Audrey, there were about 10 women on the plane. Our family looked to be the only foreigners headed to Nepal on this flight. The plane was full of men heading home to help rebuild after the devastation.
As we began our descent to Kathmandu, the energy on the plane was palpable. I can’t begin to guess how many flights I have taken in my life; but, I have never experienced anything like this. Every person on the plane was eagerly trying to see outside. A quiet came over everyone. At one point, everyone (except us, cause we didn’t know what was happening) started laughing. Then they quickly quieted down again, but not back to silence. There seemed to be a sort of relief. I certainly felt relieved. Throughout our approach and landing, we did not see a single sign of the earthquake. We saw cars driving on the roads and everything seemed normal. My eyes teared over as I felt a tremendous sense of contentment. I was absolutely sure that we were doing the right thing. Of course, we saw collapsed buildings as we left the airport. Our hotel for the night in Kathmandu had just reopened the day we arrived. There were workers everywhere patching up and repainting damage from the earthquake. The next morning, we headed to Pokhara.
While we were prepared for what to expect in Nepal, no one was expecting another earthquake.
The 2nd major earthquake in Nepal occurred on the first day of our trek. As luck would have it, we were having lunch on a balcony perched on the side of a cliff. At first, we thought that a big wind was shaking the balcony. After a second or two, Corey and I realized it was an earthquake. We immediately moved to more solid ground. I think that the earthquake lasted about 8-10 seconds. After everything seemed safe, we finished our lunch and continued our hike. Our guide got information pretty quickly that let us know we were very far away from the affected areas.
In the middle of that night, Audrey woke up after having a dream about the earthquake. We found out later in the day, that she actually woke up following an aftershock. On the final morning of our trek, I was exhausted and having trouble getting up and going. Corey and Oliver were already down at breakfast when an aftershock motivated me to hop out of bed and start the day. We haven’t been aware of aftershocks since then.
We have had the opportunity to do some volunteer work for earthquake relief. We found a group called Helping Hands putting together earthquake relief supplies. Corey and Oliver jumped in right away and starting helping them. They were so impressed with how hard Oliver worked that they awarded him a special certificate.
We have also helped buy and load supplies into a truck that was headed up to set up a base camp for earthquake relief in remote areas. Remote areas have been devastated and received no help from the government at first because it was focusing on Kathmandu and bigger towns. The help these small, remote villages have gotten has all come from people getting together and taking what is needed to them. A group of Nepali men with close ties to The Learning House loaded up a jeep and started going up the day after the earthquake. They have taken supplies up to remote areas several times now. After driving up, they have to hike several hours carrying supplies. They set up a base camp to help facilitate getting to more remote areas. Aid workers are just now getting to the first areas these young men have been helping since the beginning. There is quite a race against time as monsoon season is just starting and there are so many people without shelter.